Aug 16, 2011


Carcassonne is among the ealier Eurogames that have achieved great popularity and is among a handful of 'gateway games'. The term 'gateway game' simply means it's a good choice when introducing someone used to playing the amazing amount of bland games that adorn the shelves of WalMarts nationwide to 'designer boardgames' or Eurogames which typically rely far more on strategy and good decision making instead of dumb luck. So what is Carcassonne all about? Simply put, it's a tile placement game in which you are building a landscape of castles, roads, fields... etc while taking ownership of these adornments in an attempt to score the most points.

I don't want to delve too deep into the rules of the game, but I do want to give more than a brief overview as to what kinds of decisions you'll need to make to maximize your score. First, you have a limit of 7 meeples or pieces with which to take ownership. Several things such as roads are either scored at the end of the game or when completed. Consequently, you'll want to try to place pieces and get them scored so you can place them again and score more points with the same figure. Likewise, the big points are racked up with things like large fields which only score at the end of a game. If you place in a field and get cut off (i.e. end up with a small field) your piece won't score many points yielded wasted potential. Furthermore, every tile has a variety of different placements and you'll obviously want to choose the placement that offers the greatest benefit to the pieces that you have already placed.

Carcassonne relies entirely on the touch screen for play. Every turn you'll receive a tile to drag onto the board and be able to rotate it into position if applicable. The game clearly highlights spots in which a given piece can be played. Once a tile has been placed you can then click on a spot to place one of your pieces if you have any available. The game will then auto score if something such as a road has been completed allowing you to always see up to the second score tallies. Furthermore, once a tile can no longer be placed spots are darkened as dead spots that have no hope of a tile placement clearly illustrating that something may never be completed.

Graphically Carcassonne is excellent for a board game and its thematic audio certainly adds atmosphere. You can easily zoom in and out with the standard pinch control. The game does do some auto zooming that I don't particularly like, but I can see the reason they do it. Carcassonne supports up to 5 players and supports hot seat play although network play, a highlight of the iOS and XBLA versions, is mysteriously absent. And instead of 'easy' and 'hard' difficulty levels there are 12 AI personalities to play against with descriptions that tag the characters with keywords such as 'dense' or 'sly'.

qrcodeAlso included is a free expansion pack from among the countless expansions that have been released for the game in 'The River II'. You might think that 'The River I' would be the pack in, but you'd be wrong. In a nutshell, this expansion changes the starting landscape from a single tile to a river of tiles from which to build off of.

Carcassonne is a solid board game adaptation with few real flaws. The absence of network play has to be the biggest disappointment as the AI only goes so far. I'd consider myself an average player and I didn't even have to brush up on scoring to win my first game against two computer opponents (the default setup). It's also too bad that there's not a demo version of the game as its over $5 price tag will scare some away from trying it. 4.5/5 stars for a well-crafted board game that's still short on some of the details.

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